Gulu- It was a heartbreaking moment seeing Ms Christine Lakot, 30, struggle to sit on her wheelchair in her courtyard under a scotching sun. But it was more painful after learning that Lakot’s disability was inflicted on her by the heartlessness of man.
Ms Lakot, a mother of two and a resident of Ogwari village in Paicho Sub-county, Gulu District, was born a healthy woman not until one night in September 2009.
On the fateful night, an intruder broke into her hut and raped her. She suffered a dislocation of the hip bones, which left her paralysed.
As the Sunday Monitor interviewed Ms Lakot, anguish was filled all over her face.
How it happened
“I was sleeping with my two- year-old child on that fateful night when I suddenly felt someone grabbing my neck and forcefully removing my dress,” recounts Ms Lakot, who was residing in Laguti Sub-county in Pader District at that time.
Her screams and calls for help were silenced when the man threatened to kill her with a knife he had in his hands. She gave up the alarm and resigned to her fate.
However, during the scuffle, Ms Lakot recognised the man’s face. He was a resident in the same village.
“The man kept on pointing a knife at me, assuring me that he would kill me if I shouted,” Ms Lakot says.
The assailant left her unconscious. She regained her consciousness the following day at Kitgum Hospital where she had been rushed by her neighbours who came to see what was amiss after hearing loud cries of her baby. But the rapist had escaped.
“My pelvic bones were dislocated and my arms and legs were paralysed as a result of the rape and the beatings,” she says.
Ms Lakot spent three weeks in hospital and was discharged before full recovery.
“I can no longer stretch my arms and legs straight. I still feel a lot of pain on my hip and it has affected my life because I cannot do any productive activity to earn a living,”
Three months after the rape, as Ms Lakot was grappling with the post-rape pains and trauma, she was taken for medical check-up in December and to her shock, she was found three months pregnant.
“The pregnancy is what still hurts me. I never wanted to have someone’s child whom I never had a relationship with,” she says.
Nevertheless, she gave birth the following year through cesarian section, but love for his five–year-old son has eluded her since.
“I must say, I have no love for this boy. Each time I see him, I reflect on the dreadful night I was raped,” says Ms Lakot.
According to police statistics, more than 30 cases of rape and defilement have been reported in Gulu District alone. The police attribute the rising crime in the region to drug abuse among the youth in the region.
JUSTICE DELAYED, JUSTICE DENIED
Ms Lakot says police and local council authorities have not followed up the case to help her get justice.
“Since I had challenges in moving, I was unable to make follow-ups with the police. I hoped the police were doing their work to hunt the suspect,” she lamented.
Ms Lakot said she became scared to stay in the area because local authorities and the family of her assailant became hostile towards her. She had to flee the area to Gulu in 2010 before she gave birth to her child.
However, five years down the road, Ms Lakot has not given up seeking justice. But her immediate challenge now is providing basic needs and school fees for her children as she is unable to engage in productive work.
Ms Lakot survives on handouts from well-wishers at a local Pentecostal church.
“The church members built for me a hut so that I can be able to raise my children,” she says. “If I can get some Shs50,000 as startup capital, I can begin selling tomatoes and onions at my home and stop entirely depending on others,” she adds.
Aswa Regional Police spokesperson, Mr Jimmy Patrick Okema, however aised Ms Lakot to report to Gulu Police Station so that her case can be followed up and she gets justice.
“We cannot say Ms Lakot was raped, but as police, we shall take our time and begin fresh investigations so that the perpetuator is brought to justice,” he said.
Mr Okema warned that the local authorities and the police who allegedly frustrated the investigations and arrest of the culprit would also be brought to justice upon conclusion of inquiries.
He aised other victims who have suffered similar tragedies to report to police so that investigations can start early enough.
Ms Irene Laker, a women leader at Gulu Disabled Union Centre, called on the government to put specialised hospitals to care for people with such ailments arising from sexual violence.
“Many victims of rape and defilement as a result of the war are also lying there with wounds that are not healed,” she said.
A 2010 Amnesty International report on sexual violence against women urged the Ugandan authorities to provide support for women seeking justice for sexual and domestic violence.
While the report exposed the need for the government to adequately resource the criminal justice system to ensure that perpetrators of violence against women can be brought to justice, it also revealed that the government has not taken some basic measures to make the system work for women.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor